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Pat Carey, the Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister, lays a wreath at the National Famine Monument

Diplomatic gaffe as British absent at Famine ceremony

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Pat Carey, the Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister, lays a wreath at the National Famine Monument

About 1,000 people attended the National Famine Commemoration ceremony yesterday including representatives from 14 nations with the notable absence of the British.

No British representative made an appearance though government officials confirmed that invitations had been sent.

The ceremony was held at the Murrisk Millennium Peace Park, at the foot of Croagh Patrick.

Included in the crowds were representatives from European Parliament, the US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney, Australian ambassador Bruce Davis and Chinese ambassador Liu Biwei. Representatives from Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Latvia, Nigeria and a host of other countries also turned up.

Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey led a group of Irish government representatives at the event but declined to comment on the absence of British representatives.

Carey commented on how appropriate it was to commemorate the Famine in County Mayo where the terrible Doolough Tragedy occurred in 1849.

Seamus O’Connell of the Humanist Association said “As we remember the greatest calamity ever to befall this country, we may ponder on the mismanagement and neglect, as much as on the failure of the potato crop.”

Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny commented on the British absence. He said “"It is strange that they didn't attend. If not the ambassador, then someone else.”

Senator David Norris, the possible next president of Ireland said “I think it would have been appropriate (for them to attend)."

The event was held in front of a sculpture of the coffin ship, created by John Behan. Local musicians and singers contributed to the ceremony while the diplomatic corps laid wreaths at the Memorial.

Also in attendance was Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv, Junior Enterprise Minister Dara Calleary, TDs, councillors and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy. The President and Taoiseach were represented by their aides-de-camp.

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